Infrequent COVID reports on long-term care knocked

Health

BOSTON (SHNS) – Warning that the public can access “little useful information” about the latest impacts on the long-term care sector from COVID-19, the Pioneer Institute on Monday urged the Baker administration to revive its weekly public health report tallying cases and deaths in facilities.

Some data about COVID-19 cases and facility-reported deaths continue to be posted on a monthly basis, but the Pioneer Institute said that information “contains outdated statistics, is hard to locate and difficult to use,” particularly compared to the now-lapsed weekly report that listed cases and deaths for the past 14 days and for the entire pandemic at each elder care facility.

The think tank slammed officials for ceasing publication of the report at the end of June, pointing to a Boston Globe report last week that one-quarter of the state’s nursing homes have grappled with COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks.

“There appears to be no good reason to abandon the Weekly Report,” the group wrote in a Monday statement. “That unexplained move is a step backwards for the state that resulted in inadequate public reporting about the demographic most at risk from COVID.”

Pioneer also claimed credit for improvements made to the Department of Public Health’s reporting practices in the spring, saying that the weekly report was “substantially improved in April in response to our comments.” When the Baker administration announced it would halt publication of the weekly COVID Public Health report, it said cases and facility-reported deaths would remain available in an Excel spreadsheet to comply with data reporting requirements under state law and that a summary dashboard would post on a monthly basis.

At the time, officials said the changes to daily and weekly reporting would be made ” to reflect the improving trends in COVID-19 activity in the Commonwealth.” Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday his administration was working with hospitals to resume the public reporting of child COVID-19 hospitalizations, but public health officials could not immediately be reached about Pioneer’s critique regarding long-term care data. 

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